Shark boy in film….

You might call me a bit of a wildlife geek. I was that kid rummaging around on all fours in woodlands searching for bugs and insects whilst you cool kids were kissing girls behind bike sheds and kicking footballs at green houses. Like a primitive hunter-gather driven by my fascination for the natural world, I wanted to see, catch and collect anything weird and wonderful lurking in the under growth or shallow streams. Driven by this thirst for a deeper understanding of life, my academic choices were set in stone….i was going to be a scientist….or was I? How did this inquisitive little rascal end up working for an internationally acclaimed film company in the heart of Bristol?  Well there my avid reader, let me tell you my story of animal nerd done good!

Naturally, I studied Zoology at Manchester University….and no that does not mean I want to work in a zoo. I was fascinated by wildlife and in particular animal behaviour and evolution. I soon found my niche within this broad field of science. Shark biology. Here was this magnificent group of animals that had been around since the dinosaurs but were being unsustainable destroyed to fuel an ever-growing demand for shark fin soup. I spent the next couple of years pursuing that. I emailed hundreds of people and labs around the world asking to work with them. It worked. I’ve been out to Bahamas, Egypt, Portugal and Seychelles diving and researching sharks. I studied a master’s degree in marine biology just so I could continue to research them. Wildlife geek had now become shark geek.

Years of academia and scientific research were great, but what good is science if no one ever hears about your research. Yes it quenches my thirst for a deeper understanding of our world, but I want everyone to share in this fascination. This is where documentary films come into play. I could see the cross over between scientific research and the film industry. Telling a story. Developing ideas and progressing them through into creative factual motion pictures. So I sent out emails, contacted people in the industry, initially just inquired into wildlife documentary making. The more people I talked to, the more I realised this is what I wanted to apply myself to. I liked the idea of the challenge but just needed the chance to see if this industry would work for me. The discovery of the Icon films work experience placement seemed ideal for my predicament! An opportunity for me to see if I would be suited to this new world of documentary film-making.

I didn’t know what to expect when I turned up to work on that first wet morning in September. I was more nervous now than any shark dive or first date. I was told I was going to experience a little bit of everything that went on in Icon and this was exactly what I was looking for, but could I do it.

So week one involved working with both marketing and operations. Just as I started to get comfortable with my job of updating the photo gallery of the website, I was whipped from it and thrust into Ops. The Ops team were like ninjas in the company, over seeing everything in the background making sure everything ran effortlessly, I loved it! Many of the people within Icon had done stints as a runner and a lot of the running teams had aspirations of other job roles within the company. It seemed like this was a prerequisite for the TV world, and it made sense.

Week two was very different. I spent a lot of time in development and research. After been given a list of potential new show ideas, it was my job to see if there was a story out there. This is where my scientific research skills could come into play…..this was my playground! I researched zoological articles but also history and cultural events. No two were the same and this variety was something novel to me. It was a different type of research, the facts and figures were still important but now the story would have to be appealing to a wider demographic than just a nerdy zoologist from Chester.

I left the two-week work experience having gained so much! I’d loved every minute of it. Not only was it a chance to get stuck in with many different aspects of the wonderful world of film, but it also gave me an invaluable chance to talk with people within the industry. Little did I know that 4 weeks later whilst interviewing for a job in Cambodia as a marine principle investigator, I would receive a phone call from Icon offering me a job as a runner.

So why did I turn down a job in Cambodia, and a shark tagging trip to the Seychelles to work in an office in Bristol? I think a big part of this decision was the people I had met. As cliché as it sounds, Icon really did have a family feel to it and a family of very talented inspiration people. I could also see that maybe taking as job as a runner at Icon could eventually lead onto bigger and better things within the company. I’d fallen in love with Bristol as a city and really jumped at the opportunity to live in such a vibrant cultural place. Maybe I could build a career here, maybe this was the break I needed to enter into the television industry. It was a risk but something about it just felt natural.

So here I am now 1 month into my job. Work experience had worked!! I am now a runner for the company I had volunteered at just 4 weeks ago. Who knows what my future holds. All I know is that I love it here, what more could I want than to be paid to do something I love.

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